Venerable Pope Pius XII

Pope Benedict has decreed Pope Pius XII Venerable which moves the hero Pope of World War II closer to sainthood.  I deem Pope Pius XII a hero because, confronting one of the cruelest tyrants in the lamentable chronicles of human crime, he saved hundreds of thousands of potential victims.  Millions of people alive today owe their lives to the actions of Pius XII.  Jewish historian Martin Gilbert, the world’s foremost authority on Sir Winston Churchill, and one of the most highly regarded historians of the World War II era, has stated as follows:

“Gilbert replied: “Please read my new book, ‘The Righteous.’ I’ve written extensively there about the Catholic Church, some of whose leaders played a remarkable part in the rescue of Jews, many of whose priests and […] ordinary Catholics played a remarkable part.”

“The Pope himself was denounced by Dr. Goebbels” — the Nazi propaganda minister — “for having taken the side of the Jews in the Christian message, in December 1942, where he criticized racism,” Gilbert said.

He continued: “The Pope also played a part, which I describe in some detail, in the rescue of three-quarters of the Jews of Rome, at very short notice, when the SS came in and tried to round up all 5,000, at least 4,000 of whom were given shelter in the Vatican itself and other Catholic places. …

“So I hope that my book can restore, in a way, on the foundation of historical fact, the true and wonderful achievements of Catholics in helping Jews during the war.”


Here are some of the accolades received by Pius XII for his efforts on behalf of Jews.

Rabbi David Dalin has a brilliant article here on Pius XII which he ends with this moving passage:

“The Talmud, the great sixth century compendium of Jewish religious law and ethics, teaches Jews that “whosoever preserves one life, it is accounted to him by Scripture as if he had preserved a whole world.”  More so than most other twentieth century leaders, Pius XII effectively fulfilled this Talmudic dictum when the fate of European Jewry was at stake.  Pope Pius XII’s legacy as a “righteous gentile,” who rescued so many Jews from Hitler’s death camps cannot and should not be forgotten.  Nor should the fact that the Jewish community, and so many of its leaders, praised the Pope’s efforts during and after the Holocaust, and promised never to forget. 

These points are especially significant in evaluating Pope Pius XII’s enduring legacy for twentieth, and twenty-first, century Jews.  It needs to be remembered, as noted earlier, that no other Pope in history has been so universally praised by Jews.  So, too, the compelling reason for this unprecedented Jewish praise for, and gratitude to, a Pope needs to be better remembered than it has been in recent years: Today, more than fifty years after the Holocaust, it needs to be more widely recognized and appreciated that Pius XII was indeed a very “righteous gentile,” a true friend of the Jewish people, who saved more Jewish lives than any other person, including Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler.  A new authentically Jewish history of Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, emphasizing his historic role and accomplishments as a “righteous gentile,” may help to bring some long-overdue recognition to his too little known and appreciated legacy as one of the century’s great friends of the Jewish people.”

The historical record in regard to Pius XII and his heroic efforts to protect as many people, Jews, Christians and the rest of humanity, as he could from the Nazi terror is crystal clear and has always been crystal clear.  Only fools and knaves think otherwise.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. It seems to me that the story of Eugenio Pacelli and the Roman Catholic Church of his era is the major untold story of the first-half of the 20th century. So far we have been given tantalising glimpses, a few pages worth in many books. But the subject calls for a book length treatment by a historian of the calibre of Michael Burleigh or Robert Service. For some reason most of the best history books of the last 10-15 years dealing with the period of WW11 have come from British historians, I hope that one their number will take up the challenge. For my part I am going to ask for Blessed Pius’ help in a private difficulty.

  2. Burleigh would be a good historian to attempt it. His Nazi Germany: A New History, is the best one volume history I have read on the Third Reich. His Earthly Powers and Sacred Causes which examines the clash of religion and politics in Europe from the French Revolution to the War on Terror displays an immense knowledge of both religious and profane history.


  4. The accusations against Pius XII are totally unwarrented and often a result of disonest motivations. But I also think he is not quite the hero some portray him has. One of his grest accomplishments is that he restored a papacy to a place on the world stage that had been lost since Napoleon. But that is the point. In the 30s and 40s, the papacy did not have the role or the influence it does today.

    The great heros are the leaders of Weimer period German Catholicism, particularly the Centre Party and the Catholic Trade Unions — Blessed Nikolas Gross, Jacob Kaiser, Wilhelm Marx, etc.

  5. I am very thankful that Pope Pius XII has finally been declared Venerable. He personally did more to help the Jews of World War II than any individual allied war leader,with all of their posturing and handshaking with Stalin that needed to take place. How dare anyone question the Pope’s virtues when he was so widely acclaimed by so many after the War.

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